What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that encrypts files on a user’s computer, essentially holding them to ransom. This malware is typically spread through phishing when a user is tricked into visiting a malicious website or opening an infected file. While ransomware was generally seen as a problem that mainly infected large companies, it has become more widespread recently, with incidents occurring in smaller companies, and even on home computers and mobile devices.
As ransomware becomes more prolific and sophisticated, it is essential that businesses take steps to protect their information as well as their employees. Through the managed IT services that we at IT Services Brisbane (ITSB) provide, businesses can avoid the in-house risks presented by malicious software attacks. By engaging managed IT services, your business can outsource the cybersecurity and IT support it needs, eliminating stress and reducing downtime. Let’s take a look at what ransomware is and how it can be prevented or removed.
How do Ransomware Attacks Work?
Ransomware attackers use a variety of methods to infect systems. These online threats can enter your computer through your web browser, malicious attachments in emails, pop-up ads, fake downloads or by other methods. They can covertly infect your computer through vulnerabilities in your operating system, web browser and other programs. Once infected, the ransomware infection can encrypt files or folders on the computer, rendering them inaccessible.
Are the Encrypted Files Damaged?
Ransomware can typically be divided into two primary types: destructive and non-disruptive. Destructive ransomware damages files by overwriting them with its own code, rendering them useless. Non-disruptive ransomware does not damage the files, but simply encrypts them and demands a ransom payment to decrypt them.
Encrypting ransomware still allows you to browse applications and folders but you will be unable to open them. File names may be altered and there is often a new file or message on the screen with a ransom note instructing the user to contact a telephone number or email address in order to receive a decryption key that will unlock their computer.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware), typically spread through phishing, that encrypts files on a user’s computer, essentially holding them to ransom.
Common Ransomware Variants
In today’s technological environment, keeping systems protected with the latest antivirus software updates and patches is a must. Cybercrime is constantly evolving, with new variants appearing all the time. Some of the most notorious ransomware variants include:
This was the first ransomware program to require cryptocurrency for payment to unlock the encrypted files. This ransomware variant emerged in September 2013 and used a trojan to target computers running Microsoft Windows. It has been estimated to have net over US$3 million for cyber criminals.
This spreads through compromised websites on a fake Adobe Flash update.
Petya encrypts entire computer systems, overwriting the master boot record to prevent the computer starting.
Who is at Risk from a Ransomware Attack?
Anyone can be a victim. Big businesses and government agencies are targeted, as well as home users. All devices connected to the internet are vulnerable to ransomware attacks.
Ransomware scans the local and network storage, making it possible for vulnerable devices to be targeted. If a computer network is used by businesses, information and files can be encrypted which can inhibit service and productivity. When a device connects to the internet, it needs updates and antivirus software installed to detect and stop the threat. A computer running older operating systems is much more vulnerable than those with newer versions.
Can Apple Macs Get Ransomware?
Yes. Mac ransomware specifically targets Apple desktops and laptops. In 2016, KeRanger was the first real example of Mac ransomware. Fortunately, Apple were quick to release an update that blocked the malicious software from infiltrating its computers and a serious outbreak was averted. The threat hasn’t gone away and the potential for a future ransomware outbreak is ever-present.
Is Mobile Ransomware a Thing?
Smartphones are mini-computers and can be vulnerable to the same ransomware and other malware attacks that desktop and laptops are. The increase of ransomware on mobile devices can be a problem in workplaces where it’s possible for an employee’s personal mobile device to link with a networked system via the company wi-fi.
Is IOS or Android More Vulnerable?
Android is more vulnerable to malicious attacks because it is an open ecosystem. However, while Apple’s rigorous approval process provides more protection, it doesn’t make iPhones immune to infection.
What is the Effect on Victims of a Ransomware INFECTION?
For businesses, ransomware that infects a single computer can be contained on that individual machine, however the risk of it spreading through a network remains. The inability to access data can be crippling and prevent a business from functioning. An infected system can lead to a decrease in revenue, particularly in sales, but also if the demanded ransom is payed to the hackers. Furthermore, it can damage your business’s reputation and erode trust, leading customers or investors to explore other options.
While large businesses can afford dedicated cybersecurity support, the average person will need to secure their devices themselves. Unfortunately, this leaves plenty of potential targets open to attack. Ransomware threats and attacks on personal files are increasing and can range from data theft to personal attacks designed to cause maximum distress and chaos to the ransomware victims.
If you think your computer has been infected by ransomware, it’s imperative to act fast and isolate the infected device, quarantine the malware, and call an expert for help to recover your data.
Why are Ransomware attacks Spreading?
Ransomware cyberattacks have been on the rise over the past few years, and are increasing at an alarming rate, with a huge surge of 105% in 2021. Attacks have been growing bolder and more widespread, causing major headaches for companies and consumers. Hackers’ ransom demands have skyrocketed, to the point where victims are sometimes forced to pay thousands of dollars to regain access to their data, but with no guarantee of its return.
Ransomware is alarming, and many people are very concerned about their information being compromised. It’s now more plausible than ever, so what exactly is fuelling the increase? It is likely there are several reasons.
- High profile attacks are attracting new players. The profitability derived from ransom payments is undoubtedly luring new cybercriminals, along with established operatives adding to their existing ransomware portfolios.
- Criminals involved in complex money laundering operations are shifting their focus to ransomware as it is simpler and more profitable.
- Ransomware operations are now working in the same way as legitimate businesses. To expand their operations, they have affiliate programmes where other criminal partners pay a commission on the revenue they generate from using the ransomware.
- Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) allows anyone to create their own ransomware and has lowered the bar for entry into ransomware operations. This means that SMEs and individuals are now just as likely as larger businesses to be victims of ransomware attacks.
What To Do If You Have Been Infected by Ransomware?
If you think your company computer has been infected by ransomware, it’s important you act fast to limit the damage. There are a few things you can do to help your company minimise damage and return to normal more quickly after an attack.
- Isolate the infected device to contain the threat: Ransomware is similar to an infectious disease in that it can spread quickly. To prevent the spread of ransomware, turn off all potentially infected machines and disconnect them from the internet.
- Quarantine the Malware: It must be quarantined in order to analyse the device infected with ransomware and identify the ransomware strain responsible for encrypting files.
- Call an Expert: While there are free malware removal tools available, if you have identified dangerous ransomware on your computer or network, it is best to contact an expert rather than trying to remove it yourself. We are specialists in the field and have a greater insight into the type of ransomware and its origin. With our knowledge and access to advanced tools, we can prevent the attack from escalating into a full-blown crisis.
The potential for ransomware to wreak havoc on your business is immense, and can cost you much more than a phone call to our experts. We can assist you in identifying the malware and have the skills and access to the appropriate software to remove it and restore your systems.
Why You Should Never Pay the Ransom
If you find yourself a victim of ransomware and are thinking about paying the ransom, think again! It’s all too easy to panic, and that is exactly what the malware is designed to do. Ransomware will often display a countdown timer—and this can lead you into making the decision to pay the ransom in an attempt at damage limitation.
If you pay the ransom, you will be identified as a fruitful target and are likely to be targeted again by the same actors or other criminals. In fact, the FBI have noted that over 50% of companies who pay a ransom are targeted again. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that victims regain full access to their encrypted data, with some criminals raising their demands, forcing victims to pay more.
Granted, it is a difficult decision to make under pressure when you are faced with the possibility of losing access to critical information and files. However, if no-one paid the ransom fees, ransomware attacks would not be profitable, and criminals would soon move on to finding a more lucrative way of making money.
Modern businesses rely on the support of their IT systems to help them run efficiently and grow. It is a highly specialist area and not one to be undertaken in half measures. For many businesses, the threat of cybercrime is no longer if it happens, but when. So, it’s crucial to have robust measures in place to block ransomware attacks, and a recovery plan in place for the worst possible scenario.
IT Services Brisbane’s managed IT services provides your business with the expert support it needs to monitor your systems, protect them from breaches and prevent ransomware attacks. Our services are tailored to your needs, and we’ll work with you to establish solutions that suit your business now and into the future.
Good monitoring applications, frequent file backups, anti-malware software and user training are all key to preventing ransomware. Although no measure can completely eliminate risk, we can greatly reduce the chance of success for attackers.
Monitoring and Detection
Monitoring and detection tools can monitor your network traffic and prevent unauthorised access that could potentially be an attack.
Anti-malware detection, spam filters and elimination tools are effective tools in preventing ransomware from infiltrating your systems.
Staff awareness training programs provides your teams with the knowledge of what to look out for, and what to do if they suspect their device may be compromised.
It is essential that data backups are made and that these are separate from your main network to avoid infection. A cloud based back up service can offer superior data security and provides seamless retrieval when needed.
A robust network segmentation system not only allows you to scale more effectively, it can also help improve security by limiting the exposure of each subnet to attacks from outside the subnet.
All businesses should have a response plan ready in case they are compromised by malware. We’ll assist you in establishing protocols so you will be better prepared for an emergency situation, minimising the damage it may cause so you can quickly restore your business.
Modern ransomware can inflict more sophisticated attacks with dangerous ransomware groups expanding by licensing their ransomware to other criminals and leveraging their own expertise for a percentage of profits.
The Future of Ransomware
The traditional model of sending out spam emails that invite an individual to download a malicious attachment is not as effective as it once was. Anti-phishing, malware detection and spam filters can all stop this kind of ransomware attack at different stages during the attack process.
Ransomware Authors Sell Their Expertise and Product
Modern ransomware can inflict more sophisticated attacks, with dangerous ransomware groups expanding by licensing their ransomware to other criminals and leveraging their own expertise for a percentage of profits.
Furthermore, rather than random phishing and spam attacks, targeting ransomware to businesses that are already compromised by previous attacks allows the criminals to affect larger parts of a network. As the ransomware is not widespread, it makes it more difficult for security researchers to build a decryption key. This makes it more likely that an organisation will pay the ransom to access their data.
What is Ransomware – The TakeawaY
Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) is likely to be the modus operandi of malicious actors into the future, which is why it is more important than ever to ensure your systems and devices are secure from major ransomware attacks.
Managed IT Services are your defence against ransomware attacks. ITSB has the experience, expertise and knowledge of the industry to effectively handle the different challenges posed by ransomware and all other cybersecurity threats to businesses. Managed IT services from IT Services Brisbane provide cybersecurity that not only reduces your costs, but also improves efficiency. While we take care of your IT security, you’re free to focus on your business! Call us today and speak to one of our team to find out more.